Dr. John Van Epp puts an interesting twist on a well beloved and known fairy tale. Ellie was an orphan who was ignored and unloved by her step mother and sisters. She meets and marries a man in a very short time. This man had heaped praise and attention, something she has craved, on her. It is no wonder that Ellie, or Cinder-Ellie as her friends knew her, fell for this man. The prince, probably accustomed to pampering and somewhat spoiled, was looking for the perfect woman. In real life, men like that are usually self-centered, controlling, and verbally abusive, at the very least. Poor Cinderella was determined to find her perfect life but her ideals were so far out of reality (she sang to mice and unfairly worked all day, and sometimes night, without rebelling) that she probably looked over certain warning signals that Prince Charming was only charming when he got his way.
I like the story of Cinderella, I do believe that good things will happen to good people, and meanness doesn’t pay well. However, Dr. Epp’s interpretation of this story does bring some interesting questions to light. Why did Cinderella believe happily ever after could happen with a stranger? Why did she think she could trust this man with a commitment of marriage after one date? Why was Prince Charming looking for that one perfect woman? I think it brings to light the most important question of all, why are there so many good people who are duped by jerks?
One easy answer is that good people see and expect good from others. They give the benefit of the doubt and forgive easily. Those are all great qualities for dating relationships and marriages, but only if what is given is reciprocated in kind. Dr. Epp has created a model that demonstrates the need for certain steps in getting to know a person and being smart about who to love, so that these wonderful traits won’t be wasted on less than wonderful partners.
Dr. Epp calls his model the RAM (Relationship Attachment Model). It’s important to note that this model is useful for marriages, but it works best for creating a relationship. In marriage, after the choice and commitment have been made, there is room for some fluctuation, but while getting to know someone it is important to follow this model precisely.
Imagine a light switch pad with dimmer switches, 5 of them in a row. Each of these switches can be raised and lowered independently of the others. In a safe relationship building practice, each consecutive switch doesn’t move higher than the preceding one.
Starting with the far left dimmer switch we have the “know” spectrum. When two people first meet this switch is very low, but as time, disclosure (talking), and different situations are experienced together this switch rises. The next switch, the “trust” spectrum, should never rise higher than the “know”. Make sure the trust given to a potential dating partner (or any person for that matter) does not exceed how much is known about them (this “knowing” takes talking, experiences, and time). If “trust” is more than “know” the trust is not grounded in reality, it’s instead based on assumptions. The “rely” switch comes next. Why should a dating partner be relied on more than they are trusted? That leaves a lot of opportunity to be let down. The next switch covers “commitment”. Be careful to commit only after the person is well known, proven to be trustworthy, and has been reliable (again, the amount of time is crucial, Dr. Epp says it takes three months to start noticing bad behaviors). Commitment – like exclusive dating or marriage – is very important, but only after someone has proven themselves.
The last switch is touch, it is not safe to include the strong emotions and connections touch invokes without first knowing, trusting, relying, and committing to that special person. It’s impossible to be sure if a partner is really special, or just perceived as special without this process. If each switch rises in order and stays balanced correctly, heartache is held at bay. This may seem a little intimidating, who wants to think about all this when falling in love? With this model and a little self control, falling in love with the right person is attainable, forgoing a lot of the heartache. This doesn’t mean dating won’t be fun. It’ll be like going on a road trip to visit the Grand Canyon, who has more fun? The person who has a detailed map of where to go, or the person who is just winging it (and probably lost)?
Hopefully Prince Charming was raised by parents that helped him understand his position afforded him pleasures few others had. Perhaps they taught him that his special position came with responsibilities, namely being a just and kind ruler. Hopefully that bled into his personal life. While we’re at it, hopefully Cinderella was able to magically, instantly get over years of abuse, heartache, and neglect with no lingering symptoms. It is important to remember that this miraculous ending would have been the exception, most fairy tales are, it is not the rule of most real relationship experiences. Thankfully, Dr. Epp has created this easy to understand model to help those looking for love make wise choices while dating so that they can find their happily ever after (disclaimer: there will be a lot of work, self-growth, effort, and forgiveness involved, but it’s worth it!).
From the book by John Van Epp, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind